Coping with Grief
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One afternoon, way back in early 1997, while Beth was pregnant with our son Eli, we went out for a drive around Missoula with Reyn and Joran. We knew that Reyn and Joran were going to have a baby brother in the months to come. Beth and I were at a loss for a name that we both liked.
Beth turned to Reyn and Joran, who were, of course, starting to bug each other in the back seat. Beth asked the boys if they could name their brother, what name would it be? The boys thought quietly for a while.
Reyn stated he would name him Eli. Joran said he would name him Isaiah.
Beth and I looked at each other and instantly knew the boys had just named their little brother. The name was perfect. Eli Isaiah Rindal came into our lives on May 1, 1997, in Missoula, Montana.
Eli was born a bit spicy and ready to go. He could flip over by the time he was 6 weeks old, had all of his baby teeth by the age of 1. Eli could even do one-handed pushups by the age of 4.
When Eli was about 2 years old, he saw his mother lying very sick in bed. He came into our bedroom with his binky in his mouth. Eli looked at his mother for a short time as Beth was in bed. Eli turned around and went out of the bedroom. A few moments later, Eli returned with his favorite blanket in hand. He reached up to Beth and tried covering her up with his blanket. Beth helped him put the blanket on. This was the beginning of Eli’s continual gestures of love and caring.
Eli’s empathy and compassion never ended. Eli used to read to a classmate who was in a wheelchair and nonverbal. He was very upset when she passed away.
Eli went to elementary and middle school at Lockwood, where he met some of his best friends, including Robert Bessasparis, Jesse Marchant, Shiloh King and Shawn Whitman and several of the Contrarez family members. Eli volunteered at Lockwood School and went into school early to help his friend Samantha “Sammy” Duvall with the recycling program.
Eli never bragged about anything that he accomplished. One example was that we found out from the Lockwood School that Eli was published in a national magazine for one of his poems and later published artwork in a Montana display. He never even mentioned these to us. Another time, Eli came home one day and casually mentioned he needed to start getting to school earlier than normal as he had been elected to Lockwood Student Council. He never even mentioned that he was running for student council.
When Eli went to high school, he took it upon himself to welcome new students so they would welcome and not feel out of place. That is where he met another great friend, Tim Fite, who had moved up to Billings from Arizona. Eli even went to Arizona later to help the family move possessions back to Billings. Eli recently enjoyed going out to Tim and his wife Maeson’s house to feed their chickens when they were traveling somewhere. He loved that. He helped feed Vern and Jennifer Ball’s menagerie of animals with his father.
Eli grew up tall, about 6’3” and handsome, but stayed modest. He preferred to grow his hair out long but then also had Beth shave his head when it was too long. Eli even modeled clothing for a local clothing line here in Billings. He had to bend down to give his mother hugs.
Eli LOVED any thing with hot sauce on it. The hotter the better. Hot wings and his mother’s spicy pickles were his favorite things to eat. Eli successfully completed the “one chip challenge” this summer, which he said was NOT a good time. But he never stopped searching for, and trying, dozens of hot sauces. We made sure we brought back different hot sauces for Eli and his brother Joran when ever we took a trip.
Eli loved camping, fishing, riding ATVs and hiking in the woods. Eli trekked a 50 mile hike a few years ago in the Bridger Mountains between Livingston and Bozeman Montana. He worked for a white water rafting company and loved his occasional rafting trip down Yankee Jim Canyon on the Yellowstone River out of Gardiner, Montana. We are not sure if his employers knew or not, but Eli did not know how to swim, even though he told us he could !
Eli was incredibly intelligent and researched so many topics. He would start conversations about topics that we had no idea what he was talking about. He would explained topics in depth and we often thought he was making stuff up. But when we would look them up later, we found out he was explaining things right. Eli loved to read and was an amazing artist. He seemed drawn to ink “doodles” on small pieces of paper that were so very intricate that a magnifying glass was often very helpful to see the details and to follow the storyline he was telling.
Eli, along with the rest of his family, fell into depression after his oldest brother Reyn died on Jan. 11, 2015. Eli was in his last semester of his Senior year at Senior High School. He could not bear to continue to live in the basement right next to where Reyn passed away, so he moved out. He moved into a house with his great friend Shiloh and, although Eli missed over 40 days of school that last semester, Senior HS allowed him to graduate as he had a very high GPA and never got into trouble at school. Eli had eight bad years of depression, anxiety and social isolation.
Then this year marked a major turn-around for Eli. He started smiling and laughing again. Eli started attending family functions and always wanting to be included in gatherings so he could talk to our family and friends. Even though he told us that he had written himself off of ever dating again, a few months ago he told his parents that he met a “girl” who was the girl next door to one of his longtime friends, McKenzie Brown.
This 4th of July chance meeting of Mallory sparked a bright light in Eli. He suddenly started cleaning his apartment more often, washed his clothes more often, started wearing cologne more often and almost non- stop smiling. He told us a few weeks ago that he thought Mallory understood him and that he understood her. He told me that he thought she was “the one.”
Eli belonged to the world. He always yearned to travel and be free. He traveled to Germany with the German club in high school. He traveled to Costa Rica with Molly Steffanich. He did not follow lockstep with “modern society.” Eli traveled the universe with his mind and dreams.
Eli, our soft spoken, deep thinking, always-caring son. He had the biggest heart and had an amazing love for his nephews, Lyric and Hazen. Eli will be missed beyond measure but never forgotten. Eli, you live on in our hearts. You will be fondly talked about with friends and family while sharing our very special memories of times spent with you, the many funny things you did and the love and care you gave to us all without condition.
Eli is finally free.
Viewing will be from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19, at Michelotti-Sawyers, located at 1001 Alderson Avenue in Billings. Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20, at First Presbyterian Church, 2420 13th St. West, Billings. We will be attempting to perform a live feed through www.facebook.com/fpcbillings for those who cannot make the funeral. A video recording of Eli’s services will also be available at their Facebook page. Burial will be at noon on Saturday, Oct. 21, at Central Montana Memorial Gardens, located just north of Lewistown. Eli will be buried next to his brother Reyn and other family members.